Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Agelessness: the Feldenkrais Method®

How do you observe aging and preservation? Looking and feeling young? Perhaps you think of it as keeping your skin taught or maintaining your muscle tone. However, what has a large importance with aging gracefully is moving youthfully. How will you preserve this? As a physical therapist and Feldenkrais movement teacher, I often discuss this with my clients. Living in LA, there are many people addressing how to stay young. But, if a person is a hundred feet away, what is the first thing you notice? Their smooth skin, their firm abs, how about their graceful movement, their upright posture, the spring in their step? I spend a great deal of time observing movement and I am amazed how rigid people have become without noticing. 

There are many strategies to work with functional strength, flexibility, coordination, conditioning and balance. But where do we re-capture suspension, calibration, creative choices, even distribution of movement, reduction of effort?

If you notice how children move, they have an enormous amount of variation and adaptation to their environment. If you observe a toddler manipulating an object to notice it, they use many choices, slow, fast, hard, soft, etc.

When I work with someone and ask them to show me a particular movement and slow it down so we can both observe how they are moving, the common response is “I never move slowly.” “I am always rushing.” No surprise, given the time demands people have these days. But, again when I ask them to do this, they are unable to execute moving slowly even under time controlled conditions.

 As adults we reduce variety of movement to move more quickly and these patterns become habituated. There is a phrase things that fire together wire together. Neuroscientists discovered that the nervous system will make short cuts for efficiency. However, as much as we benefit from this, it closes down the ability to move in a child like way with freedom of choice, variation in speed of movement and using our internal error detection. So to address these ideas try to use these tools:

  •  start to move slowly
  •  notice how your entire body moves with a particular movement
  •  vary the way you do a movement when possible
  •  bring your full attention to what you are doing
  • notice if you need to use your eyes in a particular way, can you do a particular task  while using your peripheral vision? Think of this like using a wide angle lens to look out from.

To move and think in these ways, you will support a process that is called neuroplasticity ( the process of developing new neural pathways).  Dr. Feldenkrais was ahead of his time when he utilized these and many more ideas to promote learning like a child to promote the process of neuroplasticity.

This kind of learning will allow us to adapt in a child like way with youthful movement and assist us in fall recovery, less stress on joints and better movement patterns to keep doing the things we love to do. My favorite quote from Feldenkrais is : "Make the impossible possible, the possible easy and the easy elegant."

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